Majestic has toasted a profitable year, boosted by a 30 per cent increase in the sale of fine wines.

The UK's largest wine warehouse yesterday reported a ten per cent rise in pretax profits to £14.5 million for the year to March 27 and said turnover lifted six per cent to £172.2 million.

Strong demand for wines from Burgundy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand helped business while champagne and rose also performed well, the Watford-based group said.

Majestic operates 129 sites in the UK - including five in the West Midlands - as well as trading as Wine & Beer World in the French channel ports of Calais, Coquelles and Cherbourg.

Sales of still wine priced at £20 or above now represent more than 3.1 per cent of UK retail sales, Majestic said.

As well as the willingness of shoppers to "trade up" to more expensive wines and champagnes, Majestic has been helped by a successful internet operation with web orders up 38 per cent on last year.

Web-based transactions now represent 5.7 per cent of UK sales.

The company's Wine & Beer World division has experienced tough trading conditions with like-for-like sales down 7.1 per cent on last year.

Majestic said this was due to a decline in day-trip traffic or booze cruises.

However, there has been strong growth in customers pre-ordering wines before travelling to France, it added.

Majestic said current trading remained strong with like-for-like UK sales up 8.6 per cent for the 11 weeks to June 12.

Chief executive Tim How said there was good potential for the future growth of the company.

"We believe Majestic is in a strong position to continue to expand market share with a potential for 200 UK locations," he said. Six new stores were opened last year at Sanderstead in Surrey, Tunbridge Wells, Derby, Berkhamsted in Herts, Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire and Stirling, Scotland.

Majestic has sites in the West Midlands at Wolverhampton; Stourbridge; Hagley Road Birmingham; Sutton Coldfield and Acocks Green, Birmingham.

The average price of a bottle of wine is now £5.59 and the average spend per transaction has risen to £118 from £113.

Mr How said current trading had been boosted by a strong promotion for champagne along with the late Easter.

The sunny weather and the World Cup tournament in Germany had also fuelled sales, he said.

UK consumers were becoming more discerning as shown in the sale of fine wines, he said.

Many customers were ordering French wine vintage 2005 'en primeur' or in advance this year as it was set to be one of the greatest vintages of the century. "This shows the interest in fine wines," he said.

Majestic's results came as London-based drinks company Blavod Extreme Spirits celebrated sales up 72 per cent.

The group said the performance of Blavod Black Vodka continued to grow in the UK and Europe despite a difficult market while its Players Extreme line of drinks - in particular cherry and caramel flavoured vodkas - performed well in the American market.

Blavod narrowed pretax losses for the year to March 31 to £2.9 million compared with a loss of £3.9 million the previous year and said turnover grew to £5.4 million up from £3.1 million.

The group was formed through the 2003 merger of Blavod Black Vodka and Extreme Beverage Company.

Shares closed up 5p at 291.